The super typhoon bearing down on Japan, forcing the cancellation of two rugby World Cup matches and some transport, is also threatening to disrupt Japan’s Formula One Grand Prix race this weekend.
Parts of Japan are still recovering from a devastating typhoon that struck a month ago, as the new storm, Typhoon Hagibis, headed north over the Pacific towards Japan’s main island.
It could make landfall on Saturday, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
“Regardless of whether this typhoon makes landfall or not, it will have a grave impact,” an agency official told Reuters.
People should prepare for torrential rain, fierce winds, high waves and storm surges, he said.
Rugby World Cup organisers have cancelled Saturday’s game between England and France as well as New Zealand’s match against Italy due to the risk from the typhoon, while a Sunday game between hosts Japan and Scotland is in doubt.
The sport’s governing body, World Rugby, and tournament officials said the decision had been taken due to the expected disruption, particularly to transport.
The Japanese airline ANA will cancel all domestic flights to and from Tokyo’s Haneda airport and Narita airport in Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo, on Saturday, it said on its website.
Japan Airlines has also cancelled more than 90 percent of domestic flights to and from those airports on Saturday, public broadcaster NHK reported.
East Japan Railway Co, which serves eastern Japan including Tokyo, said it might have to suspend operations on conventional lines as well as the Shinkansen bullet train service over the weekend.
Operations of the Shinkansen linking Tokyo and the western city of Osaka could also be cancelled over the weekend, Central Japan Railway Co said.
Formula One Grand Prix threat
Organisers of the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix said they were keeping a close eye on the typhoon and were working to minimise any disruption to this weekend’s schedule.
The Suzuka circuit, which is set to host Sunday’s race, is about 300 km southwest of Tokyo.
Typhoon Hagibis is expected to pass over or close to Chiba prefecture, which was hit hard by typhoon Faxai a month ago.
Faxai, one of the strongest typhoons to hit Japan in recent years, destroyed or damaged 30,000 houses and caused long power cuts.
An official at the prefectural government’s disaster response headquarters urged people to get ready.
“In particular, we want them to store up at least three days’ worth of food and water,” said the official, Naoto Hayashi.
In Tokyo, which is also in the likely path of the storm, 1.5 million people live below sea level in eastern parts of the city.
Experts have warned that as many as 5 million people would have to be evacuated if massive dikes and levees in low-lying areas were to be overwhelmed by surging floodwaters.
Japan’s navy, or Maritime Self Defense Force as it is known, has cancelled two preview days of a fleet review and may have to abandon the main event on Monday as well.
The review, last held four years ago, is due to include 46 naval vessels, including a helicopter carrier, destroyers and submarines, and 40 aircraft.
What Japanese media are saying
Asahi Shimbun one of Japan’s premier newspapers says that government officials and weather forecasters are warning the public to beware as the typhoon heads towards landfall.
“Weather agency officials urged the public to take safety measures against Typhoon No. 19, when strong winds are expected to start pummelling the Pacific coast of the Honshu main island in the afternoon, bringing heavy rain.”
The Japan Times said the government is preparing for the typhoon after coming under fire for being slow to respond to a typhoon last month that caused power outages in many areas of Chiba Prefecture.
“This time, the government is employing countermeasures in advance to highlight its preparedness for Typhoon Hagibis, the 19th typhoon this year.”
It quotes Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as saying the government “is strengthening its vigilance against the typhoon”.
“For Typhoon Faxai, the Abe administration was accused of holding no meeting of related ministers before or after its landfall.
“On Thursday, the government held a disaster management meeting among officials from ministries and agencies concerned, confirming related matters such as dispatching personnel to local governments and securing emergency power sources in the event of outages.”
Hagibis is a massive system that’s likely to bring violent winds and sustained heavy rain to wide areas, said news agency NHK.
“Storm surges are expected along the coast of eastern Japan from Saturday through Sunday.
“Torrential rain is forecast on the Pacific side of Japan from Friday through Saturday, bringing the risk of floods and landslides.”
Railway operators have begun warning that services on many lines could be cancelled, says the Japan Times.
JR East said on its website that bullet trains and other major services could be halted, including the Yamanote, Chuo and Tokaido lines.
The train operator plans to update information on its website with more details, including specific lines and suspension times, at 10:30 am Friday, spokesman Yuji Ishikawa said.
At the same time, All Nippon Airlines Co. said that all domestic flights departing and arriving on Saturday at Narita and Haneda airports will be cancelled. Japan Airlines will cancel at least 90 percent of domestic flights to and from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and Narita Airport in Chiba Prefecture.
The Japan Times said that precise forecasts for tracking the cyclone are still difficult.
“Typhoon Hagibis, which the U.S. military’s forecasting agency has put on par with a Category 5 hurricane, is approaching Japan’s main island of Honshu after a rapid intensification in the Pacific and could make a direct pass over the Kanto region this weekend.
“The storm, which tracked near the Ogasawara islands through Wednesday, is forecast to continue moving toward Honshu, weakening only slightly before a possible landfall on Saturday night or early Sunday morning.
“More precise forecasts for its path are still difficult, and a turn to the west toward central Japan or the east toward the sea remain among the possibilities.
“However, its large size means that areas not facing a direct hit could still be significantly impacted. Speaking during a news conference Wednesday, a Meteorological Agency official urged caution against heavy rain, strong winds, high waves and storm surge.” /radionz
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